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VANCOUVER - There is no question that the City of Vancouver, through Mayor Sullivan, his NPA-councillors and their appointed staff, believe they are on a mission. The precise nature of their mission remains a mystery, but their agenda does not seem to include negotiating a fair contract with their unionized employees or placing any priority on ending the strike and restoring public services. Instead, prolonging the strike appears to be part of the City’s strategy as they continue to include ingredients that belong in a recipe for a never-ending strike.

Rather than investing their energy at the bargaining table, the City of Vancouver engages in costly public relations stunts and video surveillance of their workers. The enclosed picture shows Vancouver officials inside their “fortress” – City Hall – videotaping their workers down below. There is no need, however, to hide behind concrete walls and take expensive polls to hear what their striking employees are saying.

The civic and library strike of 2007 is the most unnecessary strike in memory. The wage and term is established – 17.5% over 5 years – and agreed to by all three local unions on strike (CUPE 15, CUPE 391 and CUPE 1004) because it is part of the regional settlement pattern first established by CUPE in Richmond and it is fair and reasonable.

The City’s own wasteful poll finds the majority (89%) of the public agrees. So the City’s fiddling around with numbers at the bargaining table, offering 16.5% for CUPE 15 and CUPE 1004 and 17.5% with a staged/delayed rather than straight wage increase (as offered to CUPE 391 library workers), is just pettiness that only serves to escalate tensions and prolong the strike.

Refusing categorically to negotiate ANY of the issues that the union locals have raised at the bargaining table as important, is the kind of ingredient you would include in a recipe to make a strike last forever – particularly when these issues, such as pay equity for library workers, trades adjustments for skilled workers, improvements for part-time workers, and benefit improvements have been negotiated and ratified by the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau.

Introduce a host of takeaways that are unnecessary and hurtful to the employees
Refuse to bargain all issues the union identifies as important
Misrepresent the truth to the media and public
Spend all available resources on anti-union public relations & surveillance rather than bargaining
Pretend it’s business as usual and that the strike in not a real inconvenience to anyone

Early on, Mayor Sullivan claimed he was saving the city from its civic workers, whom he falsely alleged were trying to hold the City hostage during the Olympics. The consequences for a political leader of making such false accusations will be studied by mayors, politicians and strategists for years to come.

Now, City spokesperson Jerry Dobrovolny says he needs to save the taxpayers from their civic workers. First of all, CUPE workers are taxpayers and furthermore, CUPE’s union issues in Vancouver are similar to what CUPE locals have negotiated and ratified throughout the region (just geared to reflect the unique circumstances of each local, their differing workplace realities and their existing collective agreements). Why is it that no other Lower Mainland municipality views its civic and library workers as the enemy rather than as human resource assets?

Now into the fifth week of a strike, the City of Vancouver has further isolated themselves and their leadership from other Lower Mainland communities who have shown that civic leadership includes listening to the concerns of your workers and addressing them with fairness and respect – as leaders in Richmond, Delta, Surrey, Burnaby, North Vancouver and now White Rock have shown.

That being said, the City of Vancouver and its residents do need to be saved, but not from their workers….